When we first started homeschooling I read a lot of books. I had an ideal in my head of what our homeschooling day was going to look like and how happy we were all going to be together.
It may not surprise you to know that what I pictured in my head was not what actually happened.
We made mistakes, we fought, we cried, we kept at it though; trying schedule after schedule, curriculum books after curriculum books, and slowly found our way to what homeschooling would be like for us.
I'm not sure anyone can avoid making mistakes when starting out with homeschooling. For most people homeschooling is totally new and different and there's always a learning curve when trying something new.
My best advice is to keep at it and do in your heart what you know is right for you and your family.
Try not to compare
Try not to let fear lead
Try not to listen to criticisms
Do listen to your kids! They know a lot more than we give them credit for!
Hopefully reading about some of our mistakes will help you avoid some of yours. Here is where we went wrong:
- Trying to make our day look like school at home! We pulled them out of school for a reason and continuing to do things the way the school did was not very smart of me. We had a great time with our de-schooling period and the minute the school year started in our town I pulled out books, worksheets, wrote up a schedule, and actually set timers! Big mistake!! I should have kept de-schooling and doing what was working.
- Threatening to send them back to public school every day when they grumbled at doing the work I had assigned! I knew they did not enjoy school and since they all wanted to homeschool I thought that meant they would be excited to work at home for me. So anytime they groaned or complained I reminded them that I could call the school and send them back. Ugh! The constant threats undermined everything I was trying to build with my boys. All they needed was more time and a lot more understanding for me.
- Pointing out that if their younger brother could do the work then they could too-- talk about undermining their confidence! What was I thinking?! Learning is not a competition and just because one person catches on quickly another will not. Shaming them into learning doesn't help. I should have pointed out that he was not TRYING and tried to figure out a better way to motivate him/ gain his cooperation but comparing kids and their learning styles never works.
- Forging ahead with curriculum and lesson plans that were just not working. I can distinctly remember a few times I pulled out our supplies and one of the boys excited yelled "I know what we're going to do" and then explained in detail what we were going to be doing and what we were going to be learning. I should have just congratulated them on being so smart and let them go play but since I had planned it; we were going to do it. I can remember tears galore and grumbles of "I hate this book".... but I had spent good money on those books and we were going to use them.
- Comparing our school schedule, work, and achievements with EVERY other family we met. I struggled with making sure we were doing enough and I constantly compared what other families and kids were doing with what we were doing. Often I found us lacking. That led to more work and more grumbling and more frustration and tears. I wish I just listened to my heart and followed my boys passions.
- Forcing my kids to learn something because that's what the schools were teaching at that age. I was so worried that homeschooling would not work out and I would need to send them back to school so I wanted to make sure they were staying "on grade level." I could clearly see that there were skills they were not interested in and were not ready to learn but I tried anyway. Teaching kids when they aren't ready is just painful.
- Being a teacher and not a facilitator of learning. Once I learned to stop following my own agenda and to watch my kids for signs of what they were already passionate about school went a lot more smoothly. They were willing to work and they were eager to learn.
- Focusing on the destination and not the journey. For a good part of that first year of homeschooling I was so focused on what they needed to know by the time the school year ended or by the time they went to middle school or by the time they reached high school that I forgot to just sit back and enjoy all the little moments from our day to day life. I find focusing on the journey and not the destination makes our day run much more smoothly.
- Not putting my kids and family first. Worry about what others were thinking and saying about me, my boys, and our lifestyle led me to make poor choices for our family. I knew what would work best for us but I ignored my gut and followed the crowd; that same crowd I was leaving behind. We took days off when the school did-- every single day and half day! When it was Veteran's day or Martin Luther King day we pulled out books learning about Veteran's day and Martin Luther King. We tried to keep a parallel life to their public school friends ignoring the fact that we had chosen an alternative lifestyle. I should have embraced what we were doing instead of trying to fit in with every other family we knew.
- Focusing on all the things my kids did not know that I still needed to teach them instead of remembering all that they already did know. Truth be told I still struggle with this mistake and it is a BIG mistake. There is so much information out there; so much that kids could and maybe even "should" be learning that literally no one can learn it all in a lifetime. When I start looking ahead and thinking of all that they still need to learn it becomes overwhelming. I start to feel stressed and that we're falling behind and then I push, and push, and push until we all feel burnt out. I should focus on fostering a love of learning and teaching my kids how to teach themselves. Building lifelong learners allows them to go back and fill in any gaps we may miss along the way and allows us to enjoy the journey and focus on what they are learning and all that they have learned instead of everything that is left to learn.